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Artemisia, visual artist, visual media


Agnès Merlet's 1997 film Artemisia opens with a full-screen, tight close-up of an eye, under a sepia veiling effect that prevents its appearing overly clinical. The image provides an effective introduction to issues this film about a seventeenth-century woman-artist explores. We might expect a film about a visual artist to concern that person’s eye. We also expect film, itself a visual medium, to fascinate the eye of the spectator. But rather than simply confirm such expectations, this filmic eye unsettles. First, because of the extremity of the close-up, we see only part of the eye. Then, although it stares directly and fixedly forward, the eye blinks, and the pupil dilates and contracts, reacting to light. Finally, the camera itself is seldom still, adding to the nervousness the image and the somewhat frenzied sound track generate.